Ruining a perfectly good phone

I had just finished tuning my ownCloud sync setup, when – after years of smooth, unharmed operation despite numerous cement-terminated falls – the better parts of my N9’s gorilla glass finally decide to break apart as the phone left the the bike mount mid-ride. It seems the mount broke due to modifications I made as it kept pressing buttons unintentionally.


Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on a another (retired) N9 next week so I can use  that phone’s display to replace the broken one, which is nice as I wouldn’t know which new phone I would by right now, for some reason the Ubuntu Edge I ordered never shipped.

This way I can continue using SyncEvolution with my little script to sync with ownCloud which uses some MeeGo D-Bus magic to pop-up a short message informing me when the sync is complete. As I failed at ash arithmetic the script feels a little clumsy, but it seems to do what it should.

New scratching device

Today I finally managed to release a new version of terminatorX, which had been broken for quite a while as some changes in either gtk+ or broke the mouse grabbing code. Anyway, just recently I bought a new mouse as the left button of its predecessor was worn out. I decided to go for a high precision device, so I ended up with a Razer laser mouse (Lachesis).

At first I was stunned that the manufacturer actually labels the device as a “weapon of mass destruction”, but hey I use with a piece of software called “terminatorX” – so who am I to judge. Once you get used to the high resolution, the mouse really is a very precise input device – and it does help operating terminatorX quite a bit. The guys from Phoronix gave the mouse (or an earlier version of it) a test and liked it, too, however they were disappointed that Razer does not provide official Linux support. While this still holds true today, I have to say that my experience with the device under Linux has been excellent so far: you plug it in, it works perfectly an you can switch the resolution with the two buttons on top.

Some might be disappointed that there is no fancy user interface allowing you to tune and configure the device – I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to configure anything.

RAID away

During the last week I’ve replaced the disks of my software RAID with larger ones as the capacity was exceeded. While this is theoretically an easy task, I had to learn a few things along the way:

  • Trying to perform such an upgrade on a headless system without console will fail.
  • fdisk silently fails to parse integer values larger than 2147483647.
  • The md superblock is located at the end of the partition/disk that you add to the RAID.
  • If the kernel associates the complete drive to a specific md device instead of the last partition, blocking the use of other partitions for other md devices, resize the last partition to leave some (wasted) space at the end to ensure that the end of the last RAID partition differs from the end of the drive.
  • Some manufactures build ‘green’ disks that constantly unload/load their heads, causing the drive to run out of spec in a very short time. If the manufacturer provides a DOS tool to correct that behavior, a pretty easy solution is to put it onto a bootable CD.
  • This stride calculation script helps to optimize the performance of the filesystem running on a RAID5.
  • Cheap desktop drives might be a bad choice for a RAID, if they break during the first re-sync of the RAID you can try to recover your data by re-creating the RAID – Thanks, Adrian!

Floppies Revisted

Last weekend I upgraded most of my home systems to run Lucid Lynx. From the software point of view everything went pretty smoothly and I am really happy so far. I like the new look which is not surprising as I’ve been using the Dust theme prior to 10.04 and they are not very far apart. The new Ubuntu One integration is an interesting way of trying to make Ubuntu sustainable, I do hope however that it will stay out of my way if I don’t want to use it.

I was close to downloading an album through Ubuntu One until they requested me to register my computer. This is something I do not want to do just to buy an album, so I stopped right there and resorted to the wonderful clamz.

Anyway, during the setup I had to realize that CD-Rs have become the floppies of 2010 – not only capacity-wise but also regarding the reliability. I’ve been having this problem with Ubuntu as well as Fedora setups: When you burn the CD-R just before running the setup on another machine with a different optical drive you will often get read errors at some point in time – typically after being halfway through the setup process. This brings me to my request to the authors of Linux distribution setup procedures: If you cannot read a package from the CD please try downloading it from the Internet after asking the user whether it is OK to do so. I fixed one of the setups with a manual chroot onto the new root fs after modifying the sources.list, on another machine I simply used the mini iso which downloads eveything via the network.

Flashing Maemo

Yesterday, I finally found the time to flash my N900 with the latest Maemo version PR1.1. I ran the flasher software on a Fedora host and the process performed quickly without problems. After recovering my backup everything was back  to normal. Unfortunately I had no wifi available at the time, so when the backup recovery re-established the software setup, it downloaded ~50MB via UMTS which was somewhat unexpected.

Most notably, the browser feels even snappier than before and I am very pleased that connecting to my OpenVPN now also works over the UMTS/GPRS connection – with the previous version I could join the VPN via WLAN only (and even Patrick couldn’t fix it). I also noted quite a few new packages in the repositories, so there are more hours of fun ahead…

Fixing The Planet

Adrian just upgraded to Fedora 12 and that brought us an upgraded python. Unfortunately the current planet version uses the md5 module which has now been deprecated, so cron now sends me one deprecation warning per hour, which is rather frustrating. I wrote a little patch to fix the planet and this entry will be the one to test the patched planet with. If it works I’ll add the patch to bug #552462.

It does rock indeed

So this is the obligatory blogged-on-the-N900 blog entry, straight from the maemo browser running all that WordPress JavaScript. So far, I am pretty amazed, although it’s only one day and I didn’t have much time to play with it. Software and UI are much more polished than I would have expected, and browsing the web works so much better than with any other mobile browser I’ve used so far.


It’s on its way! I have finally ordered one of these fine mini laptops that can serve as cell phones, too. Now I’m sure that Adrian will taunt me for buying a device that comes with my favorite audio daemon pre-installed, but hey if it works as it should I’m OK with that. What convinced me to get one of these phones is that I will be able to install Debian packages, that it features an XTerm hotkey that will open a shell from anywhere and that it should be useful without relying on my Google account.

Convergence Revisited

While idling in front of my desktop watching the karmic update complete, I decided it was time for a fresh wall paper. So I put some of the good, old convergence onto a photo I took at our local tram museum recently. In case you want to run underneath a historic tramway, too, here a three different resolution edits (1280×1024, 1680×1050 and 2560×1024):

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Pulse Pounding

Yes, I knew this would happen. However, that does not diminish my frustration. Of all the desktop machines that I work with, I only use three to play audio frequently. These machines currently run Ubuntu Jaunty, Ubuntu Karmic and Fedora 11. For each setup I had the good intention of keeping PulseAudio after installation, but it failed on each installation for a separate reason:

  • On the machine running Karmic, vlc (the only player capable to properly play my AVCHD recordings) will drop frames like hell when running with PulseAudio.
  • The Jaunty machine is a rather powerful quad-core with a high-end sound card and just listening to music with totem I will actually get occasional buffer underruns (stuttering audio) when running a kernel compile.
  • On the Fedora machine I’d like to run mpd on start-up as a different user than the one logged in (who is forced to run PulseAudio) and this is not easily possible (or maybe not at all).

Even worse, it is becoming more and more painful to remove PulseAudio. You will loose ubuntu-desktop and gnome-bluetooth (also on Fedora). For Karmic I had to recompile gnome-session or else it will fully load one core trying to connect to PulseAudio. Gnome will no longer let you control the volume, neither from the panel nor via the keyboard.

So now we have shiny new features (that I never had a chance to use, because I always have to disable PulseAudio), but solid, reliable and easy sound output is history. Congratulations on breaking Linux Audio!